Have I mentioned how much I dislike Ben Percy’s Nightwing? Have I mentioned how annoyed I am with his heavy-handed, politically-driven scripts, and the fact that nothing Nightwing says under Percy’s pen feels true to the character? Great! Because I’m about to say it again!

If you’ve been reading Nightwing since Percy took over, I’m sorry to tell you that this Annual is more of the same. As I stated above, I’m not a fan. Aside from the fact that the entire “Dark Web” arc feels like a dated story that’s a decade or two past due, this book is also chock-full of terrible characterization, awkward relationships, and cutesy fan-service that is honestly worse than a number of fan-fics you can find on Reddit. Simply put, it’s bad.

When you break this issue down, there’s not much story here. A majority of the book is spent teasing and toying with romantic relationships between Dick and Barbara or Dick and Vicky Vale. This could be fun – or, at the very least, engaging – but none of the exchanges are executed well. The flirting between Dick and Vicky is especially atrocious! The whole bit about Dick feeling “naughty” because Vicky is an old fling of Bruce’s made me roll my eyes. I mean, who is this book targeting? Mature adults don’t speak this way. Their exchanges remind me of the conversations I hear junior high kids having when they’re dating or interested in one another, and I half expected one of them to ask the other to the school’s fall dance (Kidding… Kind of.). The dialogue comes across odd, juvenile, and grates against who we know these characters to be.

What makes this even worse, is the repetitive nature of these scenes. In this issue alone, there are two separate interactions with Dick and Babs, and two separate interactions with Nightwing and Vicky that are nothing more than a flirt fest. One scene – preferably with Barbara – would have sufficed. There’s no need for three scenes that ultimately accomplish the exact same thing for the same narrative. That’s called padding.

It quickly became clear that Percy didn’t have a story to tell to fill up these 40 pages, so rather than thinking of an interesting concept, he just reverts to lazy tropes. Unfortunately, this results in a boring book. What’s more infuriating is that had he taken a little more time to work this story, he would’ve easily come up with something different, better. And there are hints of interesting concepts here, but he’s not exploring them. He’s choosing to focus his attention on nonsense, and in the process, he’s coming across as an elderly, paranoid grandpa that’s afraid of technology.

Which brings me back to Vicky Vale, and her inclusion in the story at all. She’s a great journalist, and Percy had an opportunity to tell an exciting and gripping story with her, but instead, he reduces her to nothing more than a plot device – both for Dick and the villain of this chapter, Vire. Why not give her something to do? Let her investigate these problems while also reflecting on the threat from her perspective. Create a valid reason for Vicky to cross paths with Nightwing, and give Vire motivation to want to stop her or oppose her.

I mean, think about… You have an army of villains that can take any physical form. This should be an interesting story, especially when there’s an army of them roaming the streets. They could be influencing or harming people thousands of ways, but Percy’s heavy hand and desire to be a political beacon narrows his creative outlook to just mirror the scandals presented through biased media or sharing fake or partially factual information through social platforms. Admittedly, there is a relevance here, but he oversells it so that it isn’t enjoyable, and only focuses on the very basic concept of the idea. Plus, anytime you turn on the tv, radio, or phone, you’re bombarded with this very thing… I don’t need an overly exaggerated version popping up in my comics.

You may have noticed that I haven’t really spoken to Dick specifically, or the antagonist. There’s a reason for that… There’s not really anything worth mentioning. In fact, there’s not much of an argument for me to make supporting why you should read this book.

The Art: Otto Schmidt covers art for this issue, and I’ll admit that I was initially excited because I enjoyed his work on Green Arrow. However, now that I’ve experienced his interpretation of Dick Grayson, I’m not a huge fan. The work isn’t terrible, but much like Percy’s script, he doesn’t appear to have a clear grasp on Nightwing as a character. There’s just something missing.

I was also disappointed by the lack of detail in certain pages of the book – especially with splash pages or two-page spreads. There’s one spread where Babs reveals Dick’s new mode of transportation… And 75% of the pages are just gray rectangles. It’s boring. Maybe he was just taking a note from Percy’s script because Schmidt is definitely better than this!

Recommended if:

  • You like Dick Grayson fan-fics.
  • You’re content reading boring stories with dated themes.
  • “I mean… It’s not completely terrible,” is enough praise for you.

Overall: Nightwing Annual #1 is a poorly written book that leans heavily on fan-service to create intrigue rather than just telling a good story with well-written characters. Take away the fan-service, and you’re left with a shell of a plot that honestly feels more like propaganda than an actual story.

SCORE: 4/10